April 5, 2012
Governor Bob McDonnell Thursday signed SB41, which provides $1,075,178 in relief to Thomas Edward Haynesworth. The Richmond native was incarcerated for 27 years from 1984 until 2011 after being wrongfully convicted of a number of crimes.
The convictions were the result of three different cases. Haynesworth has been exonerated in all three.
"There are exceedingly rare occasions when our justice system, despite our best efforts, results in the conviction and imprisonment of someone who through further investigation of evidence or improved technology is later proven to be innocent," Gov. McDonnell said after signing the bill. "In these rare cases, all efforts should be made to assist these individuals as they return to society and work to resume their lives."
A divided Virginia Court of Appeals in December 2011 vacated Thomas Haynesworth's rape and abduction convictions in two sexual assaults in 1984. Haynesworth's lawyers had argued that a large body of evidence cleared him of the crimes and implicated imprisoned serial rapist Leon Davis. Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli and prosecutors in the two places where the crimes occurred joined Haynesworth's attorneys from the Innocence Project in efforts to seek full exoneration for Haynesworth.
"Mr. Haynesworth’s case has been thoroughly reviewed by the courts, the Attorney General, the General Assembly, and this office, and he has been restored the freedom and rights due to him. Thomas Haynesworth’s wrongful convictions and imprisonment were a tragedy and although the Commonwealth cannot return to him the years lost while serving time in prison, we can assist him as he rebuilds his life," the governor explained.
Police arrested the 18-year-old Haynesworth in February 1984 near his home after a victim in one of the assaults reported that a man resembling him attacked her. The other victims selected his face in photographic lineups. Ultimately, Haynesworth was convicted in three of the attacks and was acquitted of one — in which DNA testing later implicated Davis. Prosecutors dropped charges in the case of the victim who first identified him as her attacker.
Haynesworth was released from prison after DNA testing cleared him and implicated Davis in one of the rapes. He now works at a clerical job in the attorney general's office.
"Now, as Mr. Haynesworth begins the next chapter in his life, it is morally right for Virginia to provide him with a means to financial security and the ability to move on with his future. This restitution will help ensure that Mr. Haynesworth is able to build upon his freedom and return to society in a successful way," said Gov. McDonnell.